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2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


What Has Changed and What the DNI Thinks

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Every five years, these agencies jointly compile nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public. Guidelines are based on recommendations from an expert advisory committee of doctors, researchers, and dietitians. So what has changed over the past five years, and what are the key recommendations for healthy eating?

Overall, the foods to eat have stayed consistent: a variety of vegetables; whole fruits; whole grains; fat-free or low-fat dairy; oils; and a variety of lean proteins including seafood, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Recommendations to limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day and saturated fats to less than 10 percent of calories per day have also held steady.

An addition in 2015 is the recommendation to consume less than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars. Added sugars, including syrups and sweeteners found in sugary drinks and processed foods, may increase risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Remember, added sugars have different effects than natural sugars found in fruit, which are buffered by fiber, water, and a host of other nutrients.

The previous recommendation to consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day has been removed from the current guidelines. While cholesterol in food can contribute to cholesterol in the blood, a strong body of evidence shows saturated and trans fats in the diet—mostly from meat, animal products and processed foods—are the true culprits. According to the Guidelines, there is not enough evidence for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol, and the advice is simply to limit cholesterol.

Other key messages:

What’s missing from the new Guidelines? Though we are instructed to emphasize whole foods over single nutrients, there is inconsistent guidance on which specific foods to cut back on, such as red meats, sodas, and processed snack foods, in order to limit saturated fats and added sugars.

These updates may not seem like big news, but sensible dietary advice rarely needs to change. Eating a nutritious diet does not require an expensive and complicated plan, nor does it have to be a burden on daily life. “I think the most important message in the updated Guidelines is about making shifts,” says Jenn LaVardera, MS RD, Nutrition and Health Communications Manager for the Dole Nutrition Institute. “You can’t simply eat more fruits and vegetables on top of an unhealthy diet. You need to find places to make changes, like eating a banana instead of a snack bar or replacing your beef burger with a Portobello mushroom.”

Looking for ways to make healthy swaps in your diet? Check out our tips in Dole’s Creative Kitchen.

Published February 1, 2016

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